That sentence brings me back to my senior kindergarten class when I was five years old, where we used to read out the date on the blackboard every single day. The year 1999 exists as a stain in my mind however, as a memory that will not go away no matter how I try to forget it. 1999 marked the year I lost my first tooth, my first time on a plane, and unfortunately the early loss of my childhood innocence.
That one memory that refuses to be wiped, it all started with that new (or old) TV. At that time Pokémon was the latest fad to hit the school. Pokémon cards, games, stickers, and the most popular, the TV show. So of course every time I came home from school, I would stay glued to the TV until Pokémon came on at five. The only problem was that my dad watched the news at 5:30, and Pokémon episodes were back-to-back, which meant I had to miss an episode everyday, something I whined on and on about. My dad got tired of hearing me complain everyday, that must be why he went and bought another TV.
My dad put the TV he bought in my room, unfortunately it was just an old, small boob tube, with rabbit ears even. It also only had 20 channels available; not including the channel Pokémon was on. I recall I didn’t care though, I was just thrilled I had my own TV in my room. After surfing through the channels, I came to the conclusion that only channel 2 (TVO kids) was worth watching so I watched that for a while. It wasn’t for another few months until I discovered channel 21. One day in April, I was flipping through the channels, trying to see if Pokémon was on. I pressed channel 21 into the remote, hoping there were more channels, and to my delight there was. My dad was surprised too, but he let me watch it because it seemed to have kids programs on. The channel was called Caledon Local 21 and later I found out it was indeed broadcasted from the town of Caledon, Ontario, a town very close to my city.
The shows I saw on Caledon Local 21 looked poorly made, and I never understood what was going on in them half the time. However as I grew up, every time I thought of that channel, I realized more and more how messed up the shows were and I had to ask myself “What the fuck was I watching?”
The following is a list of shows and episodes I remember seeing on Caledon Local 21, how I remember such detail even disturbs me, but I guess things like this stand out in your mind for a while. There were only three shows I could find on the channel, probably because the channel was only operational between 4:00pm and 9:00pm
Booby - Episode 6, “Together”: I recall Booby was a show where the characters were simply live action hands, no puppets or anything, just hands. The show featured a hand named Booby who found himself in a new situation every episode. The show was only 5 minutes long, and looked like it was shot in front of a damp, decaying wall, with the hands always on a table with a red table cloth(Very low budget obviously). This was the first episode I watched. The episode began with Booby trying to get ketchup out of a bottle. It actually showed him beating himself against the bottom of the bottle for a good 3 minutes. Finally another hand came by and looked at Booby. “Together” The other hand said, and it began beating the bottle as well, until some ketchup finally squirted out all over the table (I chuckled slightly at this part). Booby then stared at the ketchup mess for a few seconds, before turning towards the camera as it slowly zoomed in on him.
Mr.Bear’s Cellar - Episode 12: Very sketchy name if you were to look at it now a days. The show featured a guy wearing a bear mascot costume who would get a new visitor into his cellar everyday. (It was always a kid) The show was filmed with a camcorder, and not a very good one either. The police asked me a lot of questions about this show. This episode started with Mr. Bear sitting at a table playing checkers by himself (I didn’t recognize it at first, but the table was the same one from Booby). He sat there playing for a bit until there was a knock on the door. The camera was then looking up the stairs at the door, where there was another knock. Mr. Bear climbed the stairs, and opened the door to reveal two young children. One was a boy about my age, and the other was a girl who looked about eight.
Mr. Bear danced in delight, and then started talking to the kids; I couldn’t hear any of them that well, I remember. Mr. Bear then lead the kids into the cellar, which was quite dark, only lit by a small oil lamp on the table. I can’t really remember that much more, except him singing a song which I couldn’t hear too well either (Probably because of that large bear mask). The episode ended with them playing hide-and-seek, with the kids hiding in a closet, and Mr. Bear counting.
Soup and Spoon: I don’t think this was even a show, I think it was more of a special movie thing. All I know is I stopped watching Caledon Local 21 for a while because I thought this show was too stupid, especially since Pokemon now came on at 4:30 and 5:00. I don’t remember much of this, but it showed a can of soup and a spoon both attached to strings, swinging back and forth, as if someone was holding them and dangling them in front of the camera. Interestingly enough, the show was shot in a basement, which looked just like the one used in Mr. Bear’s Cellar. Like I said, I can’t remember much, the only thing I can remember clearly was the end.
The entire thing was only half an hour, and just included stuff I found stupid, such as the spoon chasing the soup around trying to “Eat him”. The ending showed a table (the one from Booby once again) and about seven kids sitting around it, each with a bowl of soup in front of them. They were sitting and looking at the camera, but with confused, almost frightened faces. The camera man then held the can of soup in front of the kids and said “Spooooons ready?” And then it just stopped.
It was summer, and I hadn't watched channel 21 for a while. Until one day when I slept over at my friend’s house I decided to check it out again. My friend had gotten a TV in his room for his sixth birthday, so we stayed up very late (For us, 9:30 was very late) and watched TV. That’s when I remembered channel 21 and brought it up to my friend. We decided to see if it was on, and to our surprise it was (They must have changed the broadcasting time).
Mr. Bear’s Cellar - Episode 23: This episode was entertaining for my friend and I, mainly because it had swearing. However, now when I think of this episode, I realize something was definitely wrong when it was filmed. The episode started with the camera on its side, while it was facing Mr. Bear, who was walking up stairs to the cellar door. The camera then blacked out for about a second, before fading in, back upright, and facing Mr. Bear. There was also another kid talking to him, but this kid looked about eleven or twelve.
He was talking to Mr. Bear for a while, but I couldn't hear well (Again with the crappy camcorder) until the kid started raising his voice. The kid was saying how it was late and his sister had to go home, you could also hear more voices in the background. I remember Mr. Bear clearly saying “Get the fuck out, you're not invited.” with a deep voice muffled by the bear mask. I remember my friend and I looking at each other and laughing at the mention of the forbidden F word, but the episode got weirder. The kid began climbing the stairs before turning around and saying how he was going to call the police. Mr. Bear began breaking into a run towards the kid, who started screaming and running as well. The camera then cut out, and that was the end of the episode. The channel then turned to static shortly after.
Booby - Episode 42, “Playing with Scissors”: One rainy afternoon I was bored, so I decided to watch channel 21. When I started watching, some show about a guy sitting in an armchair was just finishing, I forget what it was about though. When I first saw this episode, I thought it was for teenagers because it had blood in it, and it was very gross. When the police told me everything, I now know who the blood belonged to. The episode showed Booby and another hand with a ribbon around the pinkie finger (Booby’s girlfriend). Booby was holding scissors and hopping around back and forth, while his girlfriend slowly swung around aimlessly.
Another hand shot onto the scene, this hand was smaller though and was jerking around violently, as if someone under the table was forcing the hand (And I later found out this was the case) “Scissors are very dangerous kids, so hold them safely” Booby said to the camera. I noticed I could also hear muffled screams, but I wasn’t sure where it was coming from because of the bad sound quality.
Booby’s girlfriend grabbed the smaller hand, which was thrashing about, and Booby went at it with the scissors. He started with the thumb, He opened the scissors wide and clasped them onto the thumb, blood began oozing out and the muffled screams were now very loud. My five year-old self was very grossed out and that’s when I decided maybe Booby was a show meant for teenagers or grown ups. Then the scissors got to the bone, a horrible crunching noise was heard, and that’s when I turned the TV off. I never discussed it with my dad because I feared he would limit my TV time.
I didn’t want to watch channel 21 after that Booby episode. In August, I grew more curious to see Mr. Bear’s cellar for some reason though. The last episode I saw of Mr. Bear was weird, and had swearing, which also made me think the show was meant for teenagers. Nonetheless, I flipped onto channel 21 when my dad was busy.
Mr. Bear’s Cellar - Episode 28: Apparently this episode had been playing the entire month of August. It was studied a lot by the police. The entire episode was just Mr. Bear sitting in a chair talking to the audience. “Hello kids! Do you want to visit my cellar? If you do, please write me a letter at this address!” The screen then switched to a white screen with multi-colored letters reading the address, and that was what remained for the rest of the episode.
So, guess what I actually did? I sent “Mr. Bear”, or that sick bastard who portrayed him, a letter. I did it out of curiosity mostly; my dad was OK with it because he thought it was a legit kid show, but then again he never saw any of what was on channel 21. So I wrote a letter using my best writing possible, I think I just said how I wanted to meet Mr. Bear, and if Booby also lived in the cellar. So my dad sent the letter to the address Mr. Bear said on the show (it stayed on all day anyway for some reason).
It took about a week to get a response, which I was surprised I did. I still have the letter I received August 15, 1999. The letter read:
“Dear Elliot, Thank you ever so-much for your letter, I would love to have you in my cellar! We play games, watch movies, and go fire camping in the middle of the woods!
“And yes, Booby does live in my cellar; he is a good friend of mine!
“Come to my house at (The police cut out this address), 'Caledon', 'Ontario', 'CA'.
“I look very forward to having fun with you!
Love, Mr. Bear”
I can not believe my dad never found this sketchy, because he actually took me to the house. And then that’s when the police became involved, those endless questions, those pictures of terrified kids, the woods...
That brings me to why I’m writing this blog, that psycho and his friends did some fucked up shit back then, and now it seems he’s trying to get into contact with me again, the entire police thing is coming back. That has brought 1999 back to me, over a decade later it is happening again.
[Update] - 09/21/11
People have been emailing me asking what exactly happened in 1999, I will get to that. Those weird TV shows I was watching apparently were meant to attract kids to Mr. Bear's house, what Mr. Bear did shocked the entire town.
My dad actually drove me to Caledon along with the address Mr. Bear left on the letter. The house was actually in the out skirts of the town, in the open farmland. I still remember that house. It looked like an older farmhouse that looked to have been built in the early 1900s. The windows were all boarded up, and the house looked in a state of disrepair. As we walked up to the house, I remember my dad checking the address over and over again and looking at the house in disbelief. Then the door opened.
I expected Mr. Bear to be at the door, but I was surprised to see a police officer emerge from the creaking doorway. The officer began talking to my dad, while I quickly asked if that was Mr. Bear's house. The officer's face cringed slightly and muttered "Oh God" or something like that. He started talking quietly to my dad so I couldn't hear, although my dad told me to go to the car anyway. And then we just went home. My dad was quiet the whole way home. I felt something strange had happened.
My dad never told me what happened for a while, I forgot about it anyway too. Channel 21 no longer came on, and when I asked about it my dad would not acknowledge its existence. I think it was when I was 13 where I learned the truth. I remembered channel 21 one day, and asked my dad about it. I guess he finally decided I should hear the truth.
Caledon Local 21 was a local TV channel that ran from October 1997-August 1999 in the Peel Region of Ontario. The entire channel was made from a house in Caledon (The one I visited) and run by a man who was not really known by anyone in the town. The channel was only available to older TVs because the signal was one only picked up by rabbit ears (Weaker frequency). The man created all the shows on the channel, all of which were kid shows. His hand was Booby, He was Mr. Bear, and he was the mysterious cameraman. The real reason he created the channel was more disturbing than what was originally thought. As you might have already guessed, he kidnapped kids and held them in his cellar. But while most people thought he was a serial child molester, he really wanted to use the kids for another purpose. The day I arrived, the man had fled his house the night before, the day before the police went in for their investigation. I wasn't the only one who was watching.